Progress Continues on Buffalo's Waterfront

December 21, 2011 Updated Dec 21, 2011 at 4:45 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Progress Continues on Buffalo's Waterfront

December 21, 2011 Updated Dec 21, 2011 at 4:45 PM EDT

(WKBW release) Construction began this week on two major projects that are linchpins to the revitalization of Western New York’s waterfront.

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation started work on the Public Canal System that is set to open on the Aud block in late 2012, and Benderson Development initiated a redevelopment project at the Donovan Office Building. The projects will generate hundreds of construction jobs and radically improve the area around lower Main Street and Canalside.

Work on the Aud block includes the removal of transfer beams and pile caps. The existing piles will be reused as part of the support the Public Canal System, which will be bid on December 22, 2011 and completed in December 2012.

In response to public input, the Canals will follow the historic alignment of the original Erie Canal as it terminated in downtown Buffalo. This new public space on the waterfront will provide ample opportunity for recreation: the Canals will have ice skating in the winter, and during the summer “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” programming will be integrated into the site, building off of the events and activities offered at Canalside during the successful summer of 2011.

The Canal System, towpaths and bridges are the first of a series of infrastructure projects planned for the Aud block. Cobblestone streets and developer-ready parcels will be included in future stages, with the goal of creating a mixed-used development that incorporates cultural, retail, office and residential spaces.

“This week’s developments pave the way for the next phase of development at Buffalo’s Canalside,” Empire State Development President & CEO Kenneth Adams said in a news release. “They bring jobs to a vacant former state office building and serve as a catalyst for future private sector investment along the waterfront.  This area has seen dramatic physical improvement in recent years and with these partnerships will continue to draw the public in record numbers.”

The Benderson project marks the first major public/private partnership on Western New York’s waterfront. The deal, which was approved by the ECHDC Directors in July, will pave the way for $30 million in private investment to the long vacant Donovan Building for the development of a mixed-use project that will include ground level retail and restaurant space and the headquarters of Buffalo-based law firm Phillips Lytle on the top four floors.

Construction on the Donovan site is expected to generate 100 to 125 skilled trade positions, and 30 to 45 supervisory positions. The redeveloped site is expected to employee five to eight operations/maintenance positions, 60 to 80 retail/restaurant positions and 650 to 700 commercial office positions.

“The steps that were taken this week demonstrate that ESD and ECHDC are pursuing the right path for economic development,” said ECHDC Chairman Jordan Levy. “The state’s commitment to infrastructure and programming has attracted private investment that will create jobs and generate revenue for the people of Western New York.”